One of the most delightful aspects of prog music is the convoluted networks of artists that can lead one to discover surprising hidden treasures. My latest vein of musical gold is an album by German artists Manuel Schmid and Marek Arnold. Their album, Zeiten, is my favorite of 2019 so far. (It was released in December 2018, and I wasn’t aware of it until March of this year, so I’m counting it as a 2019 release.)
How did an American fan of prog rock find this relatively obscure album that is sung entirely in German? Even Schmid’s official website is in German, so it’s incomprehensible to me. Well, I am a big admirer of the Australian group, Southern Empire. Sean Timms is their keyboardist and main songwriter. He is also a member of another excellent prog group, Damanek. Damanek includes multi-instrumentalist Marek Arnold. I noticed that Arnold’s newest project was Zeiten, and, voila!, I found this gem of an album
Zeiten is entirely sung in German, but that hasn’t detracted from my enjoyment of it one bit. I wish I could tell you what the songs are about, but based on the official video for Kleines Glück, I would say they are about relationships. Zeiten itself means “times” or an era in one’s life. All I know is that every song is perfectly crafted jewel.
Schmid and Arnold’s melodies are beautiful and delicate, catchy without being cloying, and deceptively complex. The instrumentation is primarily keyboards based, and mostly acoustic. There are very tasteful synth flourishes and electric guitar solos, but none of them overwhelm the beauty of the underlying melodies. Stiller Schrei features Schmid singing with a string quartet, and it is comparable to a work by Schubert.
Schmid has a wonderful voice – warm, clear, and strong without any histrionics. Arnold supplies sympathetic accompaniment with keyboards, synths, and sax. Their talents combine to create some of the most seductive music I’ve ever heard.
Here is the video for Kleines Glück, which I assume is a bittersweet meditation on memories of childhood: